The biggest environmental youth movements you’ve never heard of
Behind Greta Thunberg’s headline grabbing thunderstorm of the #YouthStrike4Climate and the Extinction Rebellion protests, there are a huge number of grassroots environmental youth movements tackling climate change and boosting young potential. Many of these have enabled direct climate and environmental action by children and young people in schools, through Eco Clubs and community projects.
For the last three years, more than 35,000 children and young people across the UK have been transforming their school grounds with wildflower meadows, habitat creation and improvement, all for the benefit of pollinating insects (and humans). Their efforts, as part of the £1.6 million Natural Lottery Heritage Fund supported Learning through Landscapes Polli:Nation project, earned a 2018 National Lottery Environment Project of the Year award.
Another, even bigger movement of nearly 100,000 passionate, skilled and environmentally conscious young people are leading the way to a brighter future through Our Bright Future, a programme funded by The National Lottery Community Fund. The 31 projects that form Our Bright Future, have quietly been making significant societal and environmental improvements, across the UK for the past four years. Through the projects young people have gained almost 4,000 environmental qualifications started more than 200 entrepreneurial projects and improved or created over 1,500 community spaces.
Our Bright Future is a once in a generation level of investment (£33 million), aimed at bringing together the UK’s youth and environmental sectors to generate a youth movement to stand up for the environment. It is made possible by The National Lottery Community Fund, the UK’s largest funder of community activity.
One of the 31 Our Bright Future projects is Fruit-full Communities, led by Learning through Landscapes. Through it , 1117 young people have created 42 orchards and planted more than 680 trees.
Speaking about her participation as a young person, Mel Sheldon said: “Before this project I didn’t really care about the environment. I didn’t know anything about trees. Now I know how to plant and look after them. It opens up a new world.”
By getting involved, Mel and the other participants have had opportunities to:
• gain new skills through hands-on experience of planting and maintaining orchards
• learn about ways to earn a living working with trees
• take pride in the spaces they created
• improve the environment for themselves and their local communities
• feel healthier as a result of working outdoors
• learn about the importance of trees for climate change, biodiversity and sustainable global development
• meet people and make new friends in their local communities
While the protests have stirred a sense of urgency for environmental action, it’s important to be encouraged by the action already being taken by young people through initiatives like Polli:Nation, Fruit-full Communities and the other Our Bright Future projects. Through the Our Bright Future programme in particular, 11-24 year olds are being given a seat at the table with key decision makers, contributing towards Government research, bringing local communities together and enhancing local green spaces for everyone.
Cath Hare, Our Bright Future Programme Manager says: “We’re giving young people a voice and the tools to make a difference in their local community, which is really inspiring for all ages. The £33 million investment, made possible thanks to National Lottery players, has been instrumental in supporting young people to connect, be empowered, develop new skills and improve their wellbeing. Enthusing young people about environmental issues now will lead to a lifelong passion for environmental improvements. I’m sure we will see many great things from Our Bright Future alumni.”
Peter Ainsworth, Chair of The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “It’s fantastic to see how young people across the UK have been motivated and encouraged by this project. Thanks to National Lottery players, nearly 100,000 young people have played an active role in shaping the future of their local environment. An investment like this is a great start to empowering and inspiring young people to help make their own futures brighter and their communities thrive.”
For more information and to get involved in an Our Bright Future project visit www.ourbrightfuture.co.uk. For details about the Fruit-full Communities project, including to watch our two short project films, visit www.fruitfullcommunities.org and to discover what was achieved through the Polli:Nation project visit www.polli-nation.co.uk